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Recording of truck tolls in Brandenburg: Soon more expensive for trucks

Photo: Patrick Pleul/ dpa

Citizens are still under the shock of the wave of inflation that has only just subsided, and one business lobby is already warning of the next. The logistics industry is predicting significant price increases for consumers due to the planned increase in truck tolls.

The spokesman of the board of the industry association BGL, Dirk Engelhardt, spoke on Wednesday of a "dramatic" toll increase. Currently, more than 80 percent of goods are transported by truck. In view of the already low profit margins of the companies, the toll increase will probably be added one-to-one to the prices of the transported products. Then consumers would have to pay more for the yoghurt pot, for the box of water and for their daily shopping. For a four-person household, Engelhardt expects additional costs of 350 to 400 euros per year, according to Engelhardt.

However, it is not entirely clear how valid these estimates are. On the one hand, freight forwarders would have to succeed in fully enforcing the higher prices against their customers, including the powerful retail chains. They would also have to pass on the increased costs to customers. Certain adjustment effects are also possible due to the higher toll: The higher costs could lead to goods with particularly long transport distances becoming expensive and consequently less in demand. To put it bluntly: The cost of apples and apple juice from the farmer next door would hardly be affected by the higher toll.

More money for the railways

What is clear, however, is that the freight forwarding industry is facing considerable burdens. The reason for the possible increases is the introduction of a CO₂ surcharge for truck tolls planned for December. The Federal Government is thus pursuing the goal of providing incentives for CO₂ reductions in the transport sector and at the same time generating higher toll revenues. According to earlier reports, the toll sum is to be almost doubled from 7.8 to around 15.2 billion euros in the coming year. By 2027, the German government expects additional revenues of 30 billion euros. Among other things, the additional funds are to be invested in the expansion of the railway, which is considered a more climate-friendly means of transport. According to a table from the road transport cooperative, the surcharge is likely to almost double the toll fee per kilometre driven for some truck classes.

Criticism of the plans of the traffic light coalition also came from the business wing of the CDU/CSU. The chairwoman of the SME and Economic Union, Gitta Connemann, spoke of a national unilateral approach. The toll increase weakens the competitiveness of German freight forwarders.

The chief executive of the German Brewers' Association, Holger Eichele, said that with the planned increase, the toll would be almost doubled. "This is nothing more than a disguised tax increase that will not only burden the logistics industry, but also all manufacturers and consumers." The bottom line is that all breweries and malthouses would be significantly burdened.

Craft businesses exempt from tolls

The Bundestag will discuss a bill on tolls on Thursday. A CO₂ surcharge is to be introduced on 1 December. Emission-free trucks, of which there are comparatively few, are to be exempted from tolls by the end of 2025. The toll obligation will also apply to trucks with a gross vehicle weight of more than 2024.3 tonnes from July 5. So far, it is 7.5 tons. Craft businesses are to be exempted.

With the changes, the coalition wants to provide incentives to use more economical vehicles to make transport more climate-friendly. Billions of dollars in additional revenue from the truck toll are to be used primarily for rail.

The bill states that toll costs account for only a small proportion of transport costs and thus an even lower proportion of the total cost of the final product. The impact on consumer prices is therefore "marginal". The truck toll applies on federal motorways and federal roads.